Society

Renting NYC Apartment for Less Than a Month Ruled Illegal

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht

A New York judge has ruled that subletting or using services to rent out an NYC apartment for less than a month is illegal and violates a city law that protects expensive hotels. Anyone suspected of running an “improvised hotel” will incur major fines.

Nigel Warren tried to use a popular website called Airbnb to rent his Manhattan apartment to strangers for five nights while he was out of town.

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Airbnb allows people to rent homes, apartments and rooms direct from the owner or lease-holder as an alternative to staying in a hotel. Founded in 2008, the company has accommodations in 192 countries.

An administrative law judge with the city’s Environmental Control Board, Clive Morrick, ruled earlier this month that Warren was in violation of operating his apartment as an improvised hotel. The judge fined Warren and Abe Carrey, the owner of his condo building on East 2nd Street, $2,400.

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Morrick said Warren and Carrey violated a 2010 law that bars landlords from renting property for a term less than 30 days. Meant to crack down on illegal hotels, the law relegates visitors staying less than a month to hotels.

Airbnb is considering an appeal. They were given intervener status in the case, but were not treated as a litigant.

They argue the 2010 law was not meant to target people who occasionally host guests in their homes. They believe their users fall under the exception in the law for “houseguests, lawful boarders, roomers and lodgers.”

Morrick rejected that argument. "It does not apply to complete strangers who have no, and are not intended to have any, relationship with the permanent occupants," Morrick wrote.

It appears that the judge considers “lawful boarders” to mean only people you know personally.

Airbnb says 87 percent of NYC hosts rent rooms in their homes and believes the 2010 law should be changed.

“This decision makes it even more critical that New York law be clarified to make sure regular New Yorkers can occasionally rent out their own rooms,” the company said in a statement. “There is universal agreement that occasional hosts like Nigel Warren were not the target of the 2010 law, but that agreement provides little comfort to the handful of people, like Nigel, who find themselves targeted by overzealous officials.” 

New York state senator Liz Krueger, who sponsored the 2010 legislation, believes the business is to blame in Warren’s case.

“The real problem here is the devil-may-care attitude companies like Airbnb take toward the legal consequences for their users,” said Krueger. “Whether it’s the laws like New York’s or it’s the basic terms of use of a potential user’s co-op or condo, Airbnb is recruiting private citizens into their business model without sufficiently warning them that it may not be legal and could even lose them their homes. That’s pathologically irresponsible.” 

Sources: Thomson Reuters, RT